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Treasures of the Archives: The Pioneer Square Totem Pole

Totem pole, Pioneer Place, Seattle, Photographs, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990 Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

Totem pole, Pioneer Place, Seattle, Photographs, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990 Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

In the summer of 1899 a group of businessmen boarded the steamship City of Seattle for what was to be a sight-seeing and “good-will tour” sponsored by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The party went ashore near a Tlingit village. Finding hundreds of totem poles, they selected what they considered to be the best, and started cutting it down with axes as they would a tree. One of the men, James Clise, claimed that the “two decrepit Indians” present at the site of the totem “made no objection to our taking the pole to Seattle.” The totem the men stole that day was a memorial pole, which was made in honor of a female elder named Chief-of-all-Women after her death in 1870.

Treasures of the Archives: Asotin County Frontier Justice Records

Criminal Horse Theft, Frontier Justice Series, Asotin Frontier Justice, 1887, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

Criminal Horse Theft, Frontier Justice Series, Asotin Frontier Justice, 1887, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

In 1887, a Nez Perce man named William Stingy charged another man called “Indian George” with horse theft. Above is the warrant issued for his arrest in Asotin County, Washington. The case is curious in a few ways. Why did Stingy use the white justice system and not tribal remedies? Is this “Indian George” the same one who General Oliver Howard used in an attempted peace negotiation with Chief Joseph during the Nez Perce War? Perhaps you could be the intrepid researcher who provides an answer to these questions.

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